Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Beginnings!

As you might just have gathered from my previous posts, I am a major Dr Who fan. And last month, a DVD boxset called "New Beginnings" was released, containing a trilogy of Who stories from the early 1980s – “The Keeper of Traken”, “Logopolis” and “Castrovalva”. The linking element between all three stories is the return of the Dr’s old adversary and fellow renegade Time Lord, The Master (Boo! Hiss!) In addition, “Logopolis” sees the departure of Tom Baker after a 7 year stint as the Fourth incarnation of the Dr (sob!) and “Castrovalva” introduces newcomer Peter Davison as Dr Number Five (hoorah!) And if that wasn’t enough in the way of changes, two new companions join the TARDIS crew – an aristocratic, scientifically gifted girl from the planet Traken called Nyssa and a brash Australian air stewardess by the name of Tegan Jovanka!! “Logopolis” and “Castrovalva” rank as two of my all-time favourite Dr Who stories so you can imagine my excitement when I heard they were coming out on DVD…

So, guys, gals and fellow Whovian geeks, here's a review of the three stories and what I like and don’t like about them (fortunately I tend toward the former rather than the latter). And I should add, this is a VERY long review. So gird your loins, please. Old Cheeser is about to get on his soap box and has a lot to say on the topic…! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. Incidentally, there’s quite a lot of spoilers ahead so if you don’t want to know what happens in these stories, DON’T read on! Go watch the stories first!


Or the Egghead of Traken as I used to refer to him. So called because the Keeper of the story is an alien with a very big, crusty egg-shaped head, as you can see in the pic just above. Very ornate looking chair as well, eh?

The Keeper presides over the Union of Traken, a group of planets which exist in universal harmony and are held together by “people just being terribly nice to each other”, as the Dr puts it. Any evil that tries to penetrate the world of Traken usually shrivels up and dies. But now something is threatening the harmony…

Tom Baker is on good form as the Dr in this story, but does look pretty worn-out and tired. This is very close to the end of his reign in the role of the Time Lord and it shows. From this season onward, Dr Who had a new producer who took the show in a different, initially more serious direction and apparently some of the changes didn’t sit that happily with Tom. The manic, clownish fourth Dr of the last few seasons has been replaced with a more sombre, dry version. However whilst I miss some of Tom Baker’s old glee (some have accused the new producers of literally sapping the life out of him) his more reigned-in performance is still welcome after the excesses of before – he was probably getting TOO out of hand. And I love the new “Autumnal” variation of the Dr’s costume – all dark, rich burgundies and reds (see the photo below or my very own profile picture for evidence!)

What about the rest of the story ? It’s an interesting tale of the pervading influence of evil in a “good” society. The planet Traken can be likened to a garden of Eden with the Melkur statue that lands on the planet (see right) the equivalent of a serpent entering that garden of paradise! Seemingly calcified and dead, the Melkur is in fact very much alive and one of the Trakenites, a woman called Kassia, falls under the Melkur’s influence. Kassia’s husband Tremas has been nominated to become the next Keeper when the current one dies and she’s upset that he is going to be taken away from her (Becoming Keeper isn’t like being made Prime Minister of Britain. No. It means sitting in a chair inside a glass chamber and not being physically present for the majority of the time. Sounds like stacks of fun, doesn’t it? One can sympathise with Kassia’s annoyance. And I can imagine it would play havoc with one's love life – if any of the Trakenites have one, that is). Anyhow, the Melkur promises Kassia that Tremas will not become Keeper but it’s all part of his plan to gain power.

And, as we find out in the final episode, the Melkur is really a TARDIS inhabited by…the Master! Who we finally see properly in the story’s last scenes, looking horribly charred and decrepit in a black cowl. It’s great to see the Dr’s old foe back in the fold and on the whole his return is well-handled. Geoffrey Beevers (coincidentally, the husband of Caroline John, who played Jon Pertwee companion Liz Shaw!) as Melkur/The Master has a deliciously malevolent voice, which drips with evil/sarcasm and this is used effectively throughout. When he is unveiled as the Master at the end he does get rather hammy and silly though, especially the bit when he look like he’s going to strangle the Dr.

I like the cod-Shakespearean look to the story. The cast all look suitably opulent, wearing robes and tunics with big puffy sleeves and shoulder pads. The women also have fabulously big hair – Kassia’s flame-haired “do” is wonderful:

Unfortunately Sheila Ruskin’s performance as Kassia isn’t quite as wonderful as her coiffure. She veers from some fairly endearing confusion and pain (“My husband will be taken away from me forever! And I know it will be soon!”) to wide-eyed over-acting and hysterics (“The evil is before you!! Before your eyes!!”) Not to mention her ridiculously flouncy fainting technique.

Anthony Ainley on the other hand is convincing and likeable as Tremas, Keeper-nominate and Nyssa’s father. With his long white hair and beard and generally amenable manner it’s hard to anticipate what will happen to him later on. Mr Ainley’s performance here is considerably more subtle than later ones and shows what a good actor he can be, when given a decent script. And if you want to know who he goes on to play after, either read on, or…re-arrange the letters of “Tremas” to make another name…

And what about Nyssa? She was never my most favourite companion (I preferred Tegan!) but she makes an impressive, if understated, debut here. Being a scientific genius and all, I felt that she became rather patronising and clever-clever later on in the programme, but in “Keeper” she still shows promise, teaming up with The Dr, Adric and Tremas to defeat Melkur. I like the bit when she shoots the Fosters, showing that she’s not such a push-over. And her “fairy tale” outfit – tiara, velvet tunic and floaty skirt – looks very pretty indeed (see right).

The ending of “Keeper” comes as a shock too. Just when you think harmony has been restored to Traken and all is nice and jolly again, the Master emerges from a grandfather clock which is in fact another TARDIS! Gasp! And then poor old Tremas is taken over by the Time Lord, who seizes his body to regenerate himself. Noooo!! A new, dapper-looking Master with slicked back hair and a black velvet suit disappears inside the Grandfather clock, muttering “A new body…at last” then dematerialises…leaving a disoriented Nyssa calling: “Father? Where are you?” A rather chilling finale and proof that not every Dr Who story has a happy ending.

Overall then an enjoyable enough story, although for me, the best is yet to come...


The Dr decides that he wants to repair the TARDIS chameleon circuit and goes to the planet Logopolis to get it sorted out. Logopolis is an interesting kind of place. It’s populated by a group of elderly mathematicians whose calculations are actually responsible for holding the entire fabric of the universe together. Bizarre but true. AND…did you know that one of the meanings of “Logos” is “The rational principle that governs and develops the universe” and “Polis” is Greek for “ancient city”! Put them together and what you have got? Clever eh! Unfortunately the Dr's the Master, turns up and starts zapping the Logopolitans, so disturbing the equilibrium of the universe.

There’s a decidedly funereal feel to “Logopolis” that I really like and the sense that the end is in sight for the Dr comes across strongly. Some critics find this story too slow and ponderous (admittedly it’s very low on action) but I love the dialogue and general atmosphere. Although there is an occasionally ridiculous plot element – the Dr’s plan to materialise the TARDIS under the Thames and open the door to “flush out” the Master being the prime example – on the whole it’s a good, if sometimes slow-moving story. Most of episodes one and two take place inside the TARDIS and it’s only when the crew arrive on Logopolis that things really hot up, with the Master unleashing havoc.

Anthony Ainley makes his full debut as the Master in this story, although we don’t see him properly until episode three. Up until then we just hear him chuckling in evil fashion rather a lot as he taunts or murders various people, like the policeman who carks it in the opening sequence of part one, and later on, Tegan’s poor old Aunt Vanessa. This is quite effective – it’s far more menacing when you can’t SEE who’s doing all the killing – just some unseen presence.

The Master also has a deliciously nasty method of bumping people off, which involves using a weapon called the Tissue Compression Eliminator that shrinks people to doll sized proportions! Yes, you’ll never look at Barbie or Ken in the same way again.

The cliffhanger to Episode One is a kitsch classic, with the Dr stood next to Aunt Vanessa’s sports car on the Barnet-by-pass, being interrogated by a Detective Inspector who thinks he’s been doing all the killing.

The Dr: “But he’s still about somewhere…”

Detective Inspector: “He, sir?”

The Dr: “Yes. The Master”.

And he looks inside the sportscar to see ... well, look above!!! Here comes Barbie doll?

Going back to the subject of the The Master, he's fairly restrained in “Logopolis” before becoming the cackling, melodramatic villain of later stories. He’s cold, steely and determined, shrinking Logopolitans left, right and centre and determined to discover the mystery of Logopolis. However he soon realises he’s royally f*cked up when it transpires that his killing of the Logopolitans threatens the future of the universe itself! On the Dr’s instructions, Nyssa has been brought from Traken to determine her father’s whereabouts and when she encounters the Master she thinks she’s found him. In one heartbreaking scene she asks him: “What is this mission of yours Father? You seem so changed by it. You look younger, but – so cold.” Let’s face it, the Master doesn’t have THAT much of a resemblance to her old Dad. You would have thought that Nyssa might have guessed something was wrong, the silly girl! Talking of Nyssa, she’s a bit under-used in this story and was clearly shoe-horned into the action at the last minute (she wasn’t originally intended to become a long-term TARDIS traveller). She’s great in one scene though where she watches the destruction of her own home planet – moving stuff.

And then there’s Tegan – I’ve written about her at length before, so have a read if you want to know more about her character! Tegan’s scenes in episode one with Aunt Vanessa (played with splendid gusto by Dolore Whiteman), provide some good bits of comedy and contrast nicely with the general atmosphere of gloom and doom elsewhere. “Hell's teeth, Auntie Vanessa! It IS a flat!" Ms Jovanka proclaims, when the sports car that is supposed to be taking the duo to Heathrow Airport breaks down on the motorway, next to a certain blue police box. I love the dialogue between the pair:

Tegan, looking skywards, sees an aeroplane: "Now that's what I call travelling."

Aunt Vanessa: "You and your aeroplanes! Sometimes I think you should have been born with wings!”

And what about the departing Tom Baker? He’s on great dour form here, as befits his final story – it’s almost as if he knows the end is nigh. Appropriately there’s lots of talk of decay, destruction and dying – the story starts off with the Dr talking about the TARDIS falling apart and being in dire need of repair.

Then the shadow of his future catches up with the Dr in the form of…The Watcher!! Never has a non-speaking part been more significant than that of the wispy Watcher. He’s a decidedly odd looking fellow, swathed in white, without proper features and who we never even hear speaking properly. He hovers on the sidelines like some kind of other-wordly ghost, watching the Dr from afar and biding his time. You see he’s an omen of what lies in store for the Doc…

I love the shots of the Watcher as he stands by the motorway observing proceedings from far off. He’s not exactly the kind of person you see everyday on the Barnet-by-pass. And I really like the long distance shot of the Watcher on the bridge above the Thames, followed by the bit when the Dr goes to "talk" to him – Tom Baker's scarf blowing in the Winter breeze and the Watcher standing there, impassive. Spooky stuff.

And then there's the story's finale. I remember watching this as a kid and being gripped – my favourite doctor was about to die!! In a nail-biting climax the Dr and the Master fight atop a radio telescope. This isn’t just a normal fight either. As in all great science-fiction, the very existence of the universe is as stake. The Dr and the Master have formed a temporary alliance in order to work out a way of halting the spread of entropy that is destroying the universe. They work out a way to do it but - shock! horror! - the Master tricks the Dr and decides that he's going to hold the whole universe to ransom. After all, if you have the means of saving the entire cosmos from total destruction, you're in a pretty good position to bargain. However the Master's method of doing this is to record his threats on what appears to be a Sony Walkman, then plug it into the radio telescope's audio system and broadcast the message to the locals. Erm...One somehow doubts that the rest of the universe is going to hear this... But! Everything hinges on an all-important cable. The Master threatens to transmit a signal down it that will end the universe (honest!). However once it is removed, the threat will be over. So the Dr takes his chances and goes outside onto the radar gantry to pull out the cable. But the nasty Master programmes the radar to begin rotating so that the Dr will be thrown off the gantry...can the good Doc make it to the cable in time??

This is a suitably dramatic final challenge for the Dr as well as a fitting way for him to bow out - dying whilst saving the entire universe has to be the ultimate in heroism!! However in time-honoured Dr Who tradition, there are some truly rubbish special effects – one shot of the Dr hanging from the telescope is obviously a stick man on a string. The Master sitting and watching the Dr as he falls off the gantry is clearly a still photograph (he doesn’t so much as flinch). But I love the montage of flashbacks of the Dr’s greatest foes that follows, all there to chide and mock him – the Daleks, the Cybermen, Davros and the evil Black Guardian – “Dr! You shall die for this!”

And then – the Dr falls!! Cue hilarious shot of Adric, Nyssa and Tegan all exhibiting “shocked” reactions to this event.

And suddenly we’re there. The fourth Dr’s final ever on-screen moments. The crumpled (although remarkably unbloody) Doc lies beneath the radio telescope as his companions gather round him, each calling out “Dr?” in wary tones. Cue another round of flashbacks of the Fourth Dr’s previous companions – Sarah, Harry, The Brigadier…great stuff for nostalgics like me.

The regeneration scene itself is one of my all time favourite bits and is lovingly done with the Watcher merging with the fourth Dr to become his fifth incarnation. You see the Watcher was the future Dr all the time! (There are also some great outtakes of this scene elsewhere on the “Logopolis” DVD, with Tom Baker getting all grumpy whilst they set up the regeneration shot – apparently he found the idea of leaving more upsetting than he thought).

And then the new Fifth Dr sits up and it’s all over! Ta dah!! I love the Dr's inquisitive look at Nyssa. Interestingly, when we next see him in "Castrovalva" his hair has turned a much lighter shade of blonde. And his boots have disappeared to be replaced by shoes. Amazing what regeneration can do for you.

Overall then great stuff and "Logopolis" will always remain a personal favourite for me.


All change! And hello Tristan Farnon. Or should I say Peter Davison – the youngest ever actor to be cast as the Dr. Initially I wasn’t sure about him and the public weren’t entirely convinced either – the general consensus was that he was already too well-known, his recent appearance in “All Creatures Great and Small” being a case in point. (Other actors previously cast as the Dr had been relatively unknown). However after "Castrovalva" I think Peter D undoubtedly proved his ability in the role...more on him later.

"Castrovalva" is quite a slow mover to start with – it's more character than plot-focused, giving viewers the chance to get to know the new Dr as well as the companions. And just like “Logopolis”, much of the first two episodes take place in the TARDIS. The overwhelming emphasis is on the Dr's failing regeneration, and his companions' attempts to help him out. The Dr goes looking for a place within the TARDIS called the Zero Room, which is supposed to have unique healing properties and will enable him to recover from the trauma of his regeneration.

Eventually the Zero Room is found but en route we get to see lot more of the TARDIS interiors, not just the console room, I hasten to add - confining the action to one place would surely get boring (although that did happen in a very early William Hartnell story "The Edge of Destruction"). I forgot to mention the extra TARDIS locations we see in "Logopolis" - the TARDIS cloisters being the most notable of all, somewhere the Dr retreats when in need of solitude and a quiet think! In "Castrovalva" there are lots of corridors plus a kind of Cricket pavilion room (in which the Dr discovers his new costume, replacing the Tom Baker outfit that he's still wearing) and of course the Zero Room. All of these sets are stylistically similar to the console room and very nicely designed too, unlike the horrendous TARDIS sets used in “The Invasion of Time” (brick walls and manky old corridors, yuk).

The Zero Room itself is an impressive set, and it's a relief when the Dr and co find it! It's an isolated space from the rest of the TARDIS, in fact the universe itself. As Tegan wryly comments, "The Dr should have told me that's what he wanted. I could have shown him Brisbane". It's so peaceful and tranquil in the Zero Room that the Dr goes to sleep and starts levitating.

But is all quite as tranquil as it seems?

NO!! Because the dastardly Master is back and has yet MORE plans up his velvet sleeves to defeat the Dr once and for all. Blimey, he just doesn't let up does he? No sooner has the Dr regenerated, then the Master kidnaps Adric for his own villainous ends, imprisoning him in his metallic "Web"(pictured above). Er, looks slightly kinky doesn't it? Who knew that the Master was into bondage scenarios? And with young teenage boys as well? Actually from the expression on his face Ad-thick looks like he's enjoying it.

Oh dear. What ever am I suggesting. This is a children’s show after all and any sexual subtext is purely coincidental. Besides which, would anyone REALLY want to do anything kinky with Ad-thick? Not unless you’ve got a thing for bratty geeks with piggy features and pudding bowl hairdos.

Anyway, getting back to the rather more important matter of the plot...! Unbeknown to the Dr, Tegan and Nyssa, the Master has cunningly used a projection of Ad-thick (I think I really like this new version of his name) to pre-programme the TARDIS to fly back to “Event One”, which turns out to be none other than the Big Bang that created the universe itself! There's a palpable build up of tension as the TARDIS heads closer and closer to the Big Bang and the companions are faced with a nail-biting decision. They must jettison 25% of the TARDIS in order to create the necessary thrust that will propel them away from the explosion - but in doing so they risk jettisoning themselves in the process…

Fortunately the TARDIS escapes impending disaster but at a high cost, as the jettisoned 25% includes the Zero Room! Nooo! Although they manage to construct a “Zero cabinet” from the remains in which the Dr can rest, it's still up to Tegan and Nyssa to find a proper location where the ailing Dr can recuperate. And searching the TARDIS database they come across the safe haven of Castrovalva, a dwelling of simplicity on a small planet in the Phylox series...

Whilst the Dr is incapitated it's mostly down to Tegan and Nyssa to take care of things and it's good to see them getting the opportunity to exercise some independence, as well as giving more focus on their characters. Tegan’s attempts to fly the TARDIS when they're on their way to Castrovalva, are quite amusing (she manages to land the ship sideways). Overall her character is on good form in "Castrovalva" and she's not as hysterical or aggressive as in other stories. I feel that Christopher Bidmead (the author of "Logopolis" and "Castrovalva") writes much better for Tegan's character than some other Dr Who writers; then again, he was responsible for creating her so it's hardly surprising (I also really liked her in “Frontios”).

We get some nice location work on the planet of Castrovalva as the girls carry the Dr to their destination. And there’s a funny bit when poor old Nyssa accidentally falls into a stream and gets her trousers wet with an accompanying “Ugh!” And no, she doesn’t take them off, again probably owing to the fact that this is a kid’s show. (Mind you, producer John Nathan Turner must have quickly realised the error of his ways, as only in the next season we suddenly got to see Tegan in a figure-hugging corset and shorts and Nyssa in some lacy underwear. Nyssa even pulled her skirt down in one episode! Gratuitous? Surely not. And a bit later new assistant Peri arrived, who was often to be seen in a bikini and erm, showing off her cleavage rather a lot. Yes, sexuality sells, even in a sci-fi show for nerds. All I can say is thank God they didn’t put Adric in a thong).

Goodness! I like going off on a tangent don’t I? Preferably a rude one. So getting back to Castrated Vulva, I mean Castrovalva…

What about the town of Castovalva itself? There are some truly fabulous sets used to represent the interior of the city in a kind of Rococo-Italian style. And the costumes look lovely as well – the feathered hunting gear worn by the men (slightly flamboyant for a bunch of (presumably) straight men!) the washer womens’ garb and the Portreeve’s outrageous hat! (see left).

Talking of the men and womenfolk, Castrovalva appears to be a very traditional, Patriarchal society – the men do the hunting and fetching, whilst the women stay within the confines of the town and do the washing and other domestic duties. The ladies are also generally represented as a bit of a giggly and gossipy bunch (they even steal the zero cabinet and use it as a washing trough, much to Tegan’s constination!) And they get bossed around by the men rather a lot. Mmm, not sure if I approve of this. But then in some cultures that's how things probably are!

There's some lovely characterisation too - the town's medicine man, Mergrave is well played by Dr Who stalwart Michael Sheard (a fabulous actor who has starred in several other stories). Shardovan, the librarian of Castrovalva, has a sinister quality about him that could lead the viewer to think that he might be the Master in disguise! And then there's the Portreeve, the town magistrate/leader who is wise but elderly and definitely not all he appears...

And neither, it turns out, is Castrovalva. Far from being the sanctuary that the Dr and his companions were hoping for, it transpires that the town is in fact an elaborate trap thought up by the Master and literally created out of thin air by Ad-thick's mathematical computations. When the Dr and co try to leave the town it's much harder than they imagined - the steps that lead out of the town keep taking them back to the same place and they can't get out! The whole idea of a town where spacial dimensions are bizarrely inverted and from which there is no easy escape derives from the art of M. C. Escher. Take a look at the Escher picture above. Freaky eh? Now tilt your head so you can look at it from different angles. In a weird way, each part of the picture makes sense, but when put together it's a jumble! The same concept applies to Castrovalva (also referred to by the Dr as recursive occlusion - yet more technical jargon). And being part of it, the townspeople of Castrovalva aren't actually aware of the problem. I find this whole idea fascinating and utilisting it in a Dr Who story is highly inventive. Unfortunately, given the limited special effects of the early 1980s, the "Escher"ness of the town isn't conveyed quite as well as it could have been - there's a few BBC Micro-style graphics in there which don't really come up to scratch. A shame the DVD Restoration crew didn't do some alternative special effects to go with the story, I'm sure they could have created something good with CGI.

The story builds to an exciting climax, with the Dr's health at stake, not to mention the pressing need for him and his companions to escape from the rapidly dissolving Castrovlva. And the Portreeve is revealed to be none other than the Master!! Surprise, surprise. Showing once again what a versatile actor Anthony Ainley can be, given the opportunity - he was really very convincing (and like Tremas rather cuddly!) as the Portreeve. Once back in Master mode he does revert to hammy threatrics though; his endless shrieks of “My web!” at the end are cringeworthy. But I love one of the last scenes when the Castrovalvan citizens turn on the Master and start ripping his clothes and attacking him! Revenge is sweet. And the Dr, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric manage to escape just before the town vanishes - forever...

Leaving us with a humorous final scene in which the Dr forces everyone to jog back to the TARDIS, stating: "You've got to be fit to crew the TARDIS! A trim time-ship and a ship-shape team." Right-on, Doc. And as for his health, he's feeling much better now - "Well however I feel - it's absolutely splendid!" An uplifting finale to a great story.

Oh, I almost forgot. What about Peter Davison's performance as the Dr? As I said at the start of reviewing this story, he did have his detractors. At the time of watching I thought he seemed more wimpy and fey than Tom Baker's powerhouse performance. But in hindsight I think I was unfair (and I was about 13 at the time too...) Peter D has been highly underrated in the role. In this, his debut story he is rather "all over the place" given the unstableness of the Dr's regeneration and his performance in "Castrovalva" reflects this. But he has the integrity, sense of justice and determinedness about him that's essential to the Dr's character. What's even more characteristic of the Fifth Dr and (to nick another reviewer's opinion) is his "old mind in a young body" persona - we get the sense that he's wise beyond his years, despite his youthful appearance and it's this aspect I like about him the most. Peter Davison did an excellent job during his three years playing the Time Lord.

And there you have it. Three "absolutely splendid" stories in one box-set. Thank you for indulging my geeky ravings, I just cannot help myself. I should quickly mention the extras that accompany each story. There's some excellent documentaries, including one called "A New Body At Last" in which Tom Baker confesses what an awkward b*stard he was to work with! It's good to see Tom B on the story commentaries as well (he's a hard fellow to track down) but a shame that Janet Fielding (Tegan) only contributes to these and doesn't appear "in the flesh" in the documentaries. Never mind. Overall I am very happy with this DVD release.

Now I've just heard that they're releasing Tom Baker's debut "Robot" later this year. Another reason to celebrate! Will I go to my grave with "Dr Who" seared on my heart? Perhaps, but my husband wouldn't be too happy and would undoubtedly prefer his name to be there instead. I'll just have to make room for both.

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These dreams

I have to tell you a funny story (and no, it's not Joke of the Week, that's a coming attraction...although I suppose this might just qualify!) One of my managers who sits near me at work (I should add she's young and very "with it" and we've been out together socially, so know each other quite well) told me today that she'd dreamt of me last night! She said that in the dream, I was telling her and other people that I'd turned heterosexual and was getting divorced from my partner!!? Curiouser and curiouser. One hopes this does NOT come true. Sounds more like a nightmare than a dream to me!

Oh dear. I have probably offended heterosexual men and women everywhere with that last comment...


Last night I started a web design night class. Hoorah! I actually felt quite nervous about “going back to school” but it went really well and I’ve definitely made the right choice. As my regular readers know all too well, I’ve had a real need to change my job and professional situation for some time. Incidentally I am still waiting to hear whether or not I can take redundancy in my current workplace – no confirmation as of yet – it’s rather frustrating being left hanging in the balance like this, but hey – hopefully everything will all work out.

Anyway even before all the redundancy stuff sprung up I actually signed up to do this course – it’s an Edexcel Certificate in Interactive Use of Media – yes, I know I said web design, but that’s the official title which sounds sooo much more impressive doesn’t it? It is mainly about web design though – the main elements of the course consist of how to design and edit your own website, how to use Dreamweaver (a web design package) and Flash (a web animation package!) And you get a proper qualification at the end which is a lot better than some other courses. I’ve been wanting to develop my web skills for some time, plus it’s a useful skill to gain (I really feel like I’ve frozen in my current job in terms of learning new skills) and it would look good on my CV! And of course I’ve got a personal interest in the Internet…what with all this Blogging malarkey! So it’s all good.

I’ve chosen a really good location to study at as well – the college is right in the heart of Soho which is about as central as you can get in London and a trendy area to boot (as befits me – daaaarling). If we were doing the course on a Friday I’d be quite tempted to pop to G.A.Y. for some drinkies afterwards. (Damn it! Move the day of the course now!!) The course tutor was very friendly, personable and positive which always helps – there’s nothing worse than having a boring or uninspiring teacher, and I should know, I’ve been one (not a boring or uninspiring one teacher that is, at least I hope not…) The college itself has some decent facilities – a library with chock loads of books and resources, a common room and so forth. And the IT suite where we’re doing the course is seriously funky – all pink walls and modern lighting. So overall, excellent choice!

Last night we mainly did introductory stuff which was pretty straightforward and not too demanding. One task the tutor gave us was to list our five favourite websites and rate them in terms of how interactive they are, colours, graphics, text etc, and then present our “findings” to the rest of the group, which was a lot of fun and also very enlightening. I’ll give you one guess what my most favourite website was…And I was gratified that one of my fellow students is a fan of the very same thing. Great minds, and all that, eh? Maybe we’ll design a website together.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Video of the fortnight - Olivia Newton John - Landslide

Lest you are still trying to contain your excitement, here comes another of my new regular posts! Wooohooo again!

Yep, being a music aficianado and connoisseur of cheese/trash, I've decided it was high time I had a regular music video spot. On a fortnightly basis, no less. It's a chance for me to share some of my fave raves with y'all. Hopefully you'll enjoy them. If not, simply click on "pause"!

First up, Miss Olivia Newton John. She's a diva and a veritable pop goddess. And a rather attractive lady too, with her Princess Diana hairstyle and array of "interesting" outfits on show in this vid.

This track, "Landslide" is taken from her 1981 album "Physical" and is one of my all-time personal Olivia favourites. A great pop song which is considerably enhanced by the video. In fact I'd go as far to say I like it even better than the video to "Physical", which is probably more well-known. In this video La Neutron-Bomb plays a kind of devil woman who ascends from the depths of...somewhere or other...to appear in an office, cunningly assuming the guise of a secretary. As you do. The guy behind the desk that she hooks up with is none other than Matt Lattanzi, who was Olivia's husband at the time and a bit of a looker!!

Anyway I'm sure my heterosexual male readers (and perhaps lesbians too!) will love this part, if not the rest of the "Landslide" video itself. Gay men will of course appreciate Livvie's hair, wardrobe and the overwhelmingly camp ambience.

I SO love the whole concept for this video. The depiction of hell with the blacked gloved hands coming out of the dry ice. Olivia's space-age outfit at the start which shows off her bottom considerably. Her glasses-on-chain image as the secretary. Her sudden transformation, for no apparent reason, into a red leather catsuit. And the venetian blind effect. Okay, I'll stop right there before I give any more away. Just watch and enjoy.

Joke of the week #1

Okay, in a bid to spice up my blog and make it even more scintillating and saucy than before, I have decided to start doing some regular posts. Woohoo!

The first of which will be...drum roll... JOKE OF THE WEEK!! Yes, every week I promise to provide a hilarious and side-splitting piece of humour to brighten up even the dullest of days. Oh dear. That's quite a lot to live up to isn't it. I'll probably be inundated with complaints from "Angry of Acton" saying "Your joke this week wasn't remotely funny!" and stuff like that. Ah well. Can't please everyone. I will however, do my utmost to amuse.

I should add that I do possess a rather smutty and nefarious sense of humour, in case you hadn't already guessed. Hence the jokes which appear will probably be along these lines. Therefore if you are of delicate sensibilities and / or your name is Mary Whitehouse, please exit this blog NOW, take a paracetemol and have a nice lie down.

Anyway, I liked this one a lot...


A good looking man walked into an agent's office in Hollywood and said "I want to be a movie star." Tall, handsome and with experience on Broadway, he had the right credentials.

The agent asked, "What's your name?"

The guy said, "My name is Penis van Lesbian."

The agent said, "Sir, I hate to tell you, but in order to get into Hollywood, you are going to have to change your name."

"I will NOT change my name! The van Lesbian name is centuries old, I will not disrespect my grandfather by changing my name. Not ever."

The agent said, "Sir, I have worked in Hollywood for years... you will NEVER go far in Hollywood with a name like Penis van Lesbian! I'm telling you, you will HAVE TO change your name or I will not be able to represent you."

"So be it! I guess we will not do business together," the guy said and he left the agent's office.

FIVE YEARS LATER..... The agent opens an envelope sent to his office.

Inside the envelope is a letter and a check for $50,000.

The agent is awe-struck, who would possibly send him $50,000? He reads the letter enclosed...

"Dear Sir,

Five years ago, when I came into your office wanting to become an actor in Hollywood, you told me I needed to change my name. Determined to make it with my God-given birth name, I refused.

You told me I would never make it in Hollywood with a name like Penis Van Lesbian.

After I left your office, I thought about what you said and decided you were right. I had to change my name.

I had too much pride to return to your office, so I signed with another agent. I would never have made it without changing my name, so the enclosed cheque is a token of my appreciation.

Thank you for your advice.

Yours sincerely,

Dick van Dyke".

!!!Love it!!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The return of La Craven

Well, it had to happen.

Inspired by my previous post on Beverley Craven, MOR songstress and Radio 2 darling, my fellow blogger Minge has gone and written his own post on the aforementioned lady. And even more excitingly, encouraged his readers to suggest things which could or should be placed ON or IN Bev. Basically he's had the guts to do what I didn't.

Go read the comments section on his post. Absolutely hilarious. The readers' suggestions are...erm...highly inventive.

And...is that really Beverley herself who has made a contribution? My goodness!! Beneath the bland veneer, Bev is obviously one sick, twisted, dirty bitch. Who would have thought it??

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ooooh my Desdemona!!!

Well, as you can see I've managed to fix the video posting problem. Hoorah!! So I can now share the aforementioned clip from "Fame" with y'all. (*Breathes big sigh of relief*)

Yep, following on from my recent ruminations on "Fame", I couldn't resist posting this one. The other night my hubbie and I watched an episode in which "da kids" do their own performance of Shakespeare's "Othello" with Leroy in the title role and Julie as Desdemona!! And here it is. Watch and enjoy!! Woohoo!!

Dig the incredibly dated (and anachronistic, forsooth?) synths!

Dig the abundance of doublet and hose and "authentic" Shakespearean outfits! (In which case, why are there two chicks dressed in silver space age gear amongst the ensemble?? Methinks anachronism rears its head again, sire! Or are these fair damsels rejects from Hot Gossip? Love the way they swish their pony tails about though).

Dig Julie Miller's cr*p acting and weird facial expressions! She's a fey one indeed.

Dig Leroy's angst, fabulous dancing and falsetto vocals!

Dig Doris' "Making her voice so craaazy!! bit. And Danny's draw-on beard.

And dig the sword fights! Splendidly choreographed. It's a wonder somebody didn't have their eye out.

WHAT a bunch of troupers. My school plays were NEVER this much fun, I can tell you.

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Friday, February 16, 2007


I've just switched to Beta Blogger and am already having a couple of problems! Apparently I'm not the first as some of my fellow bloggers have had teething troubles too.

I was actually holding out on switching over for this very reason, but one of the last times I signed in to Blogger it only gave me the option of converting to the new version and not signing in in the normal way! Very sneaky!

Now it seems I can't post videos from You Tube....pah!! And I had a faberoony Fame video to share with y'all...I'm sure there is a way of getting round this but I'm not desperately technical.

Any suggestions anyone?


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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Is there life on Maaaaars?

Last night I watched "Life on Mars" for the first time. In fact it's just returned for a brand new series. And it's been raved about by all manner of people.

On the whole I enjoyed it. The premise involves a modern policeman from 2006, Sam Tyler (played by John Simm) who after being hit by a car, finds himself in 1973. There, he is working for Manchester and Salford Police CID under DCI Gene Hunt (played by Philip Glenister). One of the main (and most fascinating) themes of the programme is the conflict in attitudes between Tyler and his 1970s colleagues. Coming from the politically correct 21st Century, Tyler's methods of policing and general moral code are significantly different to those of DCI Hunt and co, who work in a police force where sexism, racism, police brutality and internal corruption are all commonplace! Lest this sounds unpleasant viewing, it isn't necessarily. Yes, some of the attitudes and behaviour exhibited by these coppers are uncomfortable to watch, but, I think the programme is capturing how things really were in the 1970s - and in fact TV cop shows from that period, like "The Sweeney" or "The Professionals", were just the same! We're not supposed to approve. The joy of "Life on Mars" comes from seeing the clash between modern Tyler and old school Hunt and our knowledge, as an audience, that things will eventually change - and hoorah for that. In the meantime poor old Tyler has to put up with such archaic attitudes. It doesn't all go unchallenged though. Tellingly there is only one female police officer, Annie Cartwright, in Hunt's department who is often regarded as the token bit of fluff, however at the end of yesterday's episode, after some particularly good work, she gets promoted! Accompanied by lots of patronising comments from the fellas, one of whom slaps her on the arse. To which, in response, she slaps him back on his arse. Go Annie!

We also get lots of frequent off-hand jokes about a future the audience already knows, but the historical characters do not, which nicely adds to the overall sense of irony in the show.

Tyler's situation is also an interesting one. Has he really travelled back in time? Is he in a coma in 2006 and imagining his experiences? Or is he really from 1973 and mentally unstable? We've had lots of clues to suggest that any of these could be true. Intriguing stuff that keeps us watching. Let's hope we find out the real answer before the end (this series is scheduled to be the last so there'd better be some decent explanations!)

Last night's episode had Marc Warren guesting as a villain (something he specialises in) and he was quite good, if a little underused. I also thought he was great in "Love and Monsters" in the last series of Dr Who (in which he played a loveable geek called Elton, with a personal interest in the Dr and ELO. "Interesting" combination).

Finally, I don't know how many of you have heard the recent rumours, but John Simm has been hotly tipped to be appearing in the up and coming third series of Dr Who. It's been said that he'll play the part of the Dr's arch-nemesis, The Master, a fellow Time Lord and renegade who popped up on many an occasion in the original version of the show. Mmm!! I wonder how much of that is true! If it is, I honestly hope Mr Simm can rise to the challenge. Eric Robert's OTT/camp portrayal of the Master in the 1996 Dr Who Movie was pretty damn dreadful. And Anthony Ainley, who first appeared as the evil Time Lord in the Tom Baker years, started off quite well, but quickly descended into pantomime villainy. Only Roger Delgado, the first and original Master during the Jon Pertwee years, really cut the mustard. His performance was classy, restrained and never less than menacing. Let's hope the new Master character (if he does materialise!) is treated with deference and respect. The resurrection of the Daleks and Cybermen was handled pretty well in the new series, so I hope it's a case of third time lucky!

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Kissing With Confidence

And for those of you who were good enough to read my recent post on WILL POWERS, here's the video to the fabulous "Kissing With Confidence"!

Dig Will's outfits / hair!!

Dig the very 1980s graphics!!

And...ta dah...!! I am proud to announce that this is my 100th blog post to date!! Hip hip hooray!!

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And I Am Telling You...

Last night I finally went to see the film "Dreamgirls" after all my pre-viewing ravings (that's "positive" ravings as opposed to "mad-man" ones). As a thinly veiled biopic of Diana Ross and The Supremes I'd been looking forward to this one a lot.

And my verdict? Good but not brilliant.

For starters, the characterisation was rather weak. Sadly, I found the three girl group characters to be more ciphers than fully rounded people. Only Effie - a rousing, ball-busting debut from newcomer Jennifer Hudson - emerged with any real personality and easily stood out from the others.

Beyonce Knowles, playing the Diana Ross-type character, Deena Jones, was actually pretty vacuous and disappointing in her role. I don't think this was a case of lack of acting ability (Ms Knowles was brilliant and sassy as Foxy Cleopatra in "Goldmember") but was more down to the weak script. In real life Diana Ross has been well known for being a career-driven, self-serving diva and all-round bitch. She pushed and shoved her way to the position of lead vocalist of The Supremes, not caring one jot about who got trodden on in the process. The result being that the group was renamed "Diana Ross and The Supremes", with the other girls (Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson) relegated to the roles of mere backing singers. In "Dreamgirls", Deena is picked to become lead singer of "The Dreams", which greatly upsets Effie, but there's none of the ruthlessness and selfishness that Diana was meant to possess - Deena is TOLD this is going to happen rather than really WANTING it. She certainly doesn't come across as some kind of self-serving bitch, just someone who got lucky at the right time.

There is SOME sense of conflict of interest amongst the girl group, but most of this stems from Effie's rebellious character - probably the best scene in the movie is the number "It's All Over", in which the girls and their male producers turn on Effie in a bid to outst her from the group. There's some brilliant dialogue, mostly sung (okay I've nabbed this bit from Lubin Odana as I agree it's ace):

Michelle: Now you watch your mouth, watch your mouth, Ms. Effie White. 'Cause I don't take that talk from no second-rate diva, who can't sustain.

Effie: I'm not feeling well. I've got pain.

Everyone: Effie, we all got pain!

If you want to read the rest of the exchange, it's

A great scene, I just wish there'd been more bits like this!

I also found the way the women defer to the male characters a lot of the time rather annoying (lots of "You are my man" type speeches!) but in fact this was probably a sign of the times. In the movie the recording industry is controlled and run by men, which was also how things were in real life. Curtis Taylor, Jnr (well played by Jamie Foxx) is clearly based on Berry Gordy - Gordy was a key player in the Motown record label who was largely responsible for the Supremes' success and also had an affair with Diana Ross - and Curtis' music empire in the film closely resembles Motown. Whilst it's empowering to see a recording company dedicated to cultivating and promoting black artistes, in other respects it's quite depressing to see how the women must stay largely subservient and dependent on their male bosses (in some cases having to sleep with them) in order to achieve any kind of fame or success.

In other ways though the film massively sugars a potentially bitter pill - as many know, after leaving the Supremes, Florence Ballard had drink and drugs problems, failed in her bid to launch a solo career and died prematurely. But in the movie - SPOILER AHEAD FOLKS! - this doesn't happen. Instead Deena finds out that Effie's career was nipped in the bud (she happens upon a copy of Effie's debut record which was pulled from distribution - HOW fortunate!) and Effie gets her much-deserved redemption. In the film's finale, the Dreams welcome Effie back into the fold for one final performance, to an ecstatic audience reception. Okay, quite heart-warming stuff but also a massive cop-out. The film seems to want to have its cake and eat it - the self-seeking band that forces the girl out in a dog-eat-dog world turns out to be not so nasty after all and everyone lives happily ever after. It would have been a far more powerful indictment of the music business and everything that goes with it if Effie had died at the end. Then Deena might have realised the error of her ways. Or not.
WHY couldn't the movie have the courage of its convictions? And WHY do Americans always insist on sickly sweet, happy endings?

Before I run the risk of sounding like a total whinging ninny, I DID find lots of things to enjoy in the film. Nearly all of the songs were excellent and performed with real verve and gusto by the women, who are undoubtedly all gifted vocalists. Jennifer Hudson is a real find with a voice that could blow the roof off the Empire State Building (even when standing on the ground floor). Her rendition of "And I Am Telling You" is amazing and I also loved "One Night Only" , the song intended to relaunch Effie's solo career but which ends up getting hijacked to become a Dreams track and is given the disco treatment!!

There was also great cinematography and choreography and the women looked stunning. The only thing that was slightly misleading were the outfits worn by the female cast which sometimes made the time period difficult to establish. Although the film started off in the 1960s by the end it wasn't altogether clear what decade we were in - some of the Dreams' clothes and hairstyles were very modern looking!

Ultimately I think that "Dreamgirls" had a hollowness at its core. The viewer just didn't get a strong enough sense of where the women were coming from - their personal backgrounds, who they were, their desires, motivations and need to get ahead - all of this was to a large extent glossed over. The film as a whole was very "surface". An entertaining but shallow experience.

Three stars for the movie, four-five stars for the songs. I expect I'll get the soundtrack at some point though. I can just see me and my mates acting out "It's All Over" in the lounge.

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I'm gonna learn how to fly...HIGH!!

Over the last few weeks I have been mostly watching…Fame! Yes my hubbie and I have been treating ourselves to regular doses of the old 1980s TV show, the first series of which is now out on DVD and which I couldn't resist purchasing. Whilst not quite as fabulous as I remember it (the memory often plays tricks) it is nevertheless a lovely blast from the past and good fun to watch.

Even the most off-the-radar person will know the theme tune to “Fame” (“Remember my name – Fame!! I’m gonna live forever! I’m gonna learn how to fly – high!!) which still gets played in cheesy discos and features on most 1980s compilations. It all started with the movie in 1980, directed by Alan Parker, relating the stories of the students and staff at the New York High School for the Performing Arts.
The TV series followed shortly in 1982, with exactly the same emphasis and ran for five years. With it’s mix of drama, comedy, music and choreography, it was a big hit and appealed to the wannabe performers, thespians and divas amongst us all…

So who was who at the New York School for the Arts…? Here’s a refresher for y’all…


Lydia Grant – no nonsense, sh*t-kicking dance teacher who frequently sends her students into an aerobic frenzy. “Alright everybody? Callisthenics!” She’s the queen of the dance studio. Probably the most famous lines of all are delivered by Lydia during the programme’s opening theme/titles: “You’ve got big dreams? You want Fame? Well fame costs! And right here is where you start paying…in sweat!” Cue banging of dance stick on floor. Ooer missus. Debbie Allen, who played Lydia, is a dancer and choreographer in real life (she organised a lot of the routines in the show) and now runs the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. I wonder if she says the same thing to her students there?

Elizabeth Sherwood – seemingly starchy but really rather caring English teacher. Has a lovely bouffant hairstyle but thankfully all resemblance to Margaret Thatcher therewith ends. She and student Leroy Johnson have a tempestuous relationship, however, in one episode she finds out about his home background and makes an effort to help out. If only all teachers were so nice and supportive.

Benjamin Shorofsky – elderly music teacher of German descent. White hair and beard. Slightly fuddy duddy and traditional, especially with regard to his ideas on music. In one episode student Bruno performs a hilarious synthesiser p*sstake-tribute to the Professor, “Sho-sho-sho-Shorofosky”, much to the Prof’s chagrin.


Leroy Johnson – lithe black dancer with a bit of an attituuuuude. Often clashes with Miss Sherwood as he isn’t the most literate of students and hates academia. His real strengths lie in dancing and it has to be conceded he is an amazing mover. Became famous for his tight, high cut shorts which he sometimes wore OVER his tracksuit trousers, a la Superman (ex Radio Two DJ Terry Wogan often used to comment on this). Oddly enough I was recently chatting to an Italian friend of mine who told me that Gene Anthony Ray, the actor who played Leroy, ended up living in Italy and became addicted to drink and drugs. He died only a few years back from an AIDS-related illness. A sad end to a genuine talent.

Julie Miller – hippy, dippy cellist who arrives at the School of Performing Arts in the first episode. She has a long distance relationship with her boyfriend in Grand Rapids and wears a chain round her neck which he gave her as a gift. The other students mock her for this which upsets her. Has problems fitting in at first but after some straight talking from Coco, toughens up more and learns to adjust. Often wears sensible slacks and body warmers. Groovy. Lori Singer, who played her, was one of the few actors from the show that went on to achieve any kind of post-Fame success – she was in “Footloose” for instance. Mind you, even that was over 20 years ago.

Coco Hernandez – like Leroy, a gifted dancer and protégé of Lydia Grant. She and Leroy are close pals although they have a rather heated relationship. She and Julie don’t always see eye to eye and Coco is a bit of a meanie toward poor old Jules, but eventually they resolve their differences. Coco is very driven and determined to make it (to heaven? To light up the sky like a flame?) She can be a rather stubborn girlie at times too. Also sings the main theme tune (originally performed by disco diva Irene Cara).

Bruno Martelli – talented keyboard player and perm head (is he related to Leo Sayer?) of Italian-American origin. Has a big love of naff '80s synthesisers, which are often utilised during the show’s musical numbers e.g. Hi Fidelity, Sho-Sho-Shorofosky. Bruno and the Prof also have differing opinions about music, Bruno taking a more “modern” approach over the Prof’s more “classical” preferences – it’s a generational thing you know. Bruno’s taxi-playing dad Angelo often turns up during proceedings and even buys him a brand new keyboard in one episode when he blows the previous one up. Gee, what a swell pop he is.

Doris Schwartz – perm-headed and slightly dumpy – okay let’s say “curvaceous” instead, it’s nicer – female student. Doris is the “bubbly” character and also a little bit whacky but basically very sweet. She’s also the wise-cracking one – as with fellow student Danny, she has ambitions to become a female comic. Has a very nice singing voice too. I love her “Making her voice so craaaazy!!” bit on “Desdemona”.

Danny Amatullo – what is it with all these characters with Italian names? Boasts one of those wonderfully '80s long-but-layered-hair-dos, slightly reminiscent of Princess Diana. Like Doris wants to make it as a comedian, the problem is, some of his jokes are distinctly unfunny. Gets a job as a busboy in a restaurant just so he can talk to a well-known comedian but gets the brush-off. Awww. A little bit cocky, a little bit street, a little bit “watcha-lookin’-aaaat, Schwaaaaartz?”

Montgomery MacNeil – of all the characters, probably the most boring and non-descript. In the original film version he was gay but his sexuality has been completely neutered in the TV adaptation. A ginga (that’s ginger) to boot, he does a horrible treacly smile in the title sequence. I honestly can’t remember much else about him than that. Doesn't say much, does it?

So that's the Fame posse. The original cast in fact, as some of this lot left over the years. But as you might have gathered they're quite an interesting bunch. And as well as the characters, there were other elements to the show itself which made it legendary:

1. The 1980s fashions. Often laughed at, even at the time. Leg-warmers were a prominent feature, not to mention an abundance of leotards, bright colours and big hair. And Leroy's shorts over his sweat pants.

2. The songs and dance routines – each episode would feature at least 2-3 of these, with some of the lead characters singing a "toon" of their own (usually related to whatever this week's episode was about). Most incredible of all was how characters would launch into perfect renditions of songs completely unrehearsed or start performing complicated dance routines in the most conspicuous of places e.g. the middle of the street, the school canteen. It must have been hard to eat your lunch in peace without some cart-wheeling dancer landing their trainers on your plate. The episode I watched last night featured Bruno and Doris visiting a music store where Mr Martelli has taken his son to buy a new synthesiser. Ostensibly trying out one of the keyboards, Bruno then breaks into a note-perfect rendition of "Hi Fidelity" with Doris on vocals. For no apparent reason, other than providing some necessary musical accompaniment, the remaining customers in the shop then decide to join in, with someone playing guitar, someone on drums, and so forth. How nice. Who would have guessed there was so much talent around?

3. A moral or a message. Yes, you can't get away from it in American shows. Each week the characters would go through some kind of dilemma/problem and by the end of the episode have learnt something new about themselves or a situation. For example in one instalment, Coco and Lydia both (unbeknownst to each other) audition for the same role in a play. To make matters worse, the director of the play is Lydia's ex-boyfriend. When the ladies find out they're both competing with each other for the same part, tension breaks out and Coco is furious that Lydia's ex is involved. But the role ends up going to another actress. However Lydia and Coco resolve their problems in the final reel, realising that in spite of losing out, friendship is what matters most and that they both still have lots of talent. Which leads nicely into their resolution-dance at the end, "I Still Believe In Me", in which they perform a perfectly synchronised routine in the school dance studio. All a bit schmaltzy and nicey-nicey, although the sopster in me admits to quite liking it too. We usually got this kind of thing every week.

Of course most recently "Fame" has been re-launched as a musical. I haven't seen it but I have a feeling it isn't that great. Apparently most of the characters and songs are totally different. Call me a nostalgic, call me an old cheeser, but you can't beat the original TV show. Especially for those of us with "big dreams". There's a lot of us out there ya know.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Snickers? Knickers!!

Just read this story on Lubin Odana's blog and had to nick it (erm cheers, Lubin).

Read and be gripped by a (justifiable) feeling of incensement!!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Groovy motor, Ms Smith!

Last night on the way home from the gym I passed a very groovy car, exactly like the one above. A Nissan Figaro apparently. Not that I'm an expert on cars or anything. I can't even drive.

The main reason I'm mentioning this
is that it's exactly the same car as the one driven by Sarah-Jane Smith in the recent Sarah Jane Adventures. Fabulous-looking with a distinctly retro/old skool style. Which could also be said about the driver. And probably why the Beeb chose the car.

Talking of which, it's high time that I wrote a review of the Sarah Jane Adventures. I'm slipping...

Where there's Will there's a way...

I've been meaning to write a post on Will Powers for absolutely ages. And given some of the changes that are going on in my life at the moment and the choices that I'm having to think about, she's kind of significant. And could be for a lot of you, in fact.

And who exactly is Will Powers, I hear you cry? Do any of you remember "Kissing With Confidence"? It was a hit in the early 1980s and is best described as an entertaining and humorous but ultimately enlightening instruction on how to overcome problems with kissing. The lyrics went like this:

You may be a sharp dresser
You may be a fantastic dancer
You may be a lively conversationalist
But what happens at the end of the evening
When the time comes to show how you feel?
Unless you can kiss with confidence,
All your fancy dressing, dancing and talking
Won't get you a second date.

I'd meet a boy I really liked
I'd start to win his heart
Come the time to kiss good night
I'd always fall apart
I'd giggle like I had no brains
Or else I'd start to cough
I thought my perspiration stains
Would turn a fellow off.

She was nervous
She was too shy
She was breathless
Lips were too dry
Hands were shaking
Didn't Know Why.

Do you want to kiss this person?
Then be honest.
What is keeping you from kissing with confidence?

Some of them can be put to rest if you ask yourself a few simple questions before kissing.
Is your breath fresh?
Do you have spinach on your teeth?
Is your deodorant strong enough?
You may also finding yourself asking what will happen once you are in the act of kissing.
Will your stomach growl?
Will your braces lock?
Will you be able to prolong the kiss and still breathe?

Why thank you for reading all of that. As said, the track manages to be thought-provoking and lots of fun at the same time. And I love the funky, 80s production. Carly Simon sings guest vocal on it too which makes it even better. "Will" herself does the advisory/rapping bits - in a husky, masculine sounding voice - although her real life alter ego is actually photographer Lynn Goldsmith.

But "Kissing" is just the tip of the iceberg. Will Powers then released an entire album, "Dancing For Mental Health" with a self help / improvement theme running throughout - every track has a message with lyrics that reflects this. The album is bursting with positive affirmations and ideas to help you improve your life. For example, one track, "Opportunities", looks at what to do when things go wrong in our lives - instead of dwelling on the bad stuff, see a set-back as a golden opportunity to turn your life around (like my recent job situation). We get testimonials from people like Bruce, a plumber who loses his job and then decides to set up his own plumbing company and Donna, a straight-talkin' hairdresser from the Bronx. "Happy Birthday" is about seeing your birthday as the perfect time for you to take stock and re-evaluate your life. And instead of dwelling on how much time you have wasted, making the most of the valuable time you have left! "Smile" considers how a positive mental attitude can affect your chances in life and bring about amazing personal transformations, starting with something as small as a smile. We finish up with a slightly OTT but touching testimonial from former bag-lady Wilma Fox, who has sunk "as low as a woman can go" and is praying for a miracle to turn her life around. Then one morning, catching the subway she goes to buy a ticket from the man in the booth, giving change:

He looked me in the eye
He handed me a token
He flashed me a smile
And the spell was broken!
Just a smile
Just smile
Just a smile
Just smile.

I bust through that turnstile
I ran to my train
People still looked hostile
But something that changed!

My express pulled in
The doors swung wide
And I started to grin as I stepped inside
I smiled as the train pullled out of the station
Sort of tickled by the humour of my own situation
Just a smile
Just smile
Just a smile
Just smile

And my attitude spread to all the fellow riders
They looked at each other and threw off those blinders
Eyes that were dead, suddenly shone
One by one, they were touched
Touched - to the bone.

As they exited that car
Great smiles were exploding
Like the evening star
Like breezes from the north
And one by one they all departed
And I saw what the man in the change booth had started
Just a smile
Just a smile
Come on smile
Just a smile

You know a smile is a very infectious thing.
It spreads joy.
It's a sign of caring.
Success or failure is caused by your mental attitude
And your mental attitude shows on your face.
So smile!
Come on!
A smile can pick you up out of the gutter and make you prosperous...
...now, I take taxis!

Brilliant stuff. Okay, perhaps it's slightly naive - I can't see many people on London Underground reacting in quite the same way - but maybe that's me having a closed mind. I love the idea behind the song and I think the words really do ring true - your mental state really does show in your face and how you get ahead in life is affected by your attitude - undoubtedly!

I love this album! So it's dated and it's got some slightly silly character skits (Wilma Fox notwithstanding) but overall it's highly inspirational and time has not diminished its effect. If you're feeling down or undecided about your life and want to make changes, "Dancing For Mental Health" is the album for you. I recommend it wholeheartedly.